5 Fast Food Reward Programs That Are Actually Rewarding

Restaurant chains don't always update their loyalty programs for the better—but these brands did.

At this point, a restaurant chain can hardly call itself a chain if it doesn't have its own mobile app or loyalty program through which it funnels its customers. Whether the rewards doled out are based on points earned, purchases made, or a grab bag of the two (as in The Cheesecake Factory's program), the point is to keep customers coming back and spending money.

Wading through this sea of reward programs, however, it can be hard to determine which ones are actually worth signing up for—especially because many of them seem to be getting worse. When a company restructures its loyalty program, it's most often done to provide more value to the company, not the customer.

We wanted to see if any loyalty programs have made "improvements" to their rewards structure that are actually improvements—that is, the customer can redeem points in more ways, or reach a rewards tier faster. Here are five restaurants whose loyalty programs might actually be worth your loyalty.


In September, Domino's is set to relaunch its rewards program, Piece of the Pie Rewards, with some positive updates, Nation's Restaurant News reports. Although the pizza chain hasn't released many specifics about the update, it was made clear at a recent earnings call that the threshold for earning rewards will be lower.


Currently, it takes 60 points to earn a free medium two-topping pizza. Each Domino's order (of at least $10 or more) earns a customer 10 points, so you basically have to spend a minimum of $60 to earn a pizza with a value of approximately $15. 

Domino's CEO Russell Weiner explained in a recent earnings call that under the new rewards system, members will still earn a pizza for 60 points, but the threshold for earning rewards will be lowered, meaning that other smaller rewards will be redeemable for fewer points.

"We think that'll be a nice driver of order," Weiner said.

El Pollo Loco

El Pollo Loco launched its rewards program in 2018 but had not made any changes until April of this year. Thankfully, the revamp is one that provides more options to the customer and makes more sense for the business today.


Previously, the chicken chain's loyalty program was a 1:1 point system in which members earned a $10 reward for every 100 points earned, meaning you would have to spend $100 to earn $10. The new program features multiple earnings tiers, with the first level being 3,500 points and members earning 100 points for every dollar spent. This means it takes $35 in spending to earn either a large drink, two churros, or a Taco al Carbon. Each of those items are regularly priced in the $2 to $3 range.

Technically, this is slightly less proportional reward value than the "$10 for every $100" system. But the appeal of a new lower tier is that casual visitors to El Pollo Loco are now able to redeem rewards after only a few visits, rather than having to rack up $100 in purchases to qualify for a freebie.


MOD Pizza

In June, MOD Pizza announced that it would be lowering the reward threshold for its members. The pizza chain's loyal customers will now be signed up for a three-tiered system in which they earn rewards at the 50-, 100-, and 150-point mark. Previously, it took a minimum of 150 points to earn a reward.


The real improvement, however, is the fact that MOD Pizza did not change the rate at which points are earned. Members still earn one point for every dollar spent, which means it takes less money and fewer visits to earn a reward.

Members now also have the option to use their points to donate small amounts of money to the brand's charity, MOD Opportunity Network, which connects disadvantaged job seekers to nonprofits that aid in finding employment. We're not sure how many customers will opt for that, but it's a novel approach.

Noodles & Company

Back in April, Noodles & Company announced that it would be adding perks to its rewards program. The new structure is called Extra Goodness, and the name seems fitting, considering it's a genuine add-on to the existing program.


Extra Goodness offers Noodles Rewards members a new reward every day, and they take multiple forms: One day the reward might be a percentage off a total order, another day it might be a free upgrade, the next day it might be a free item added to the order, and so on. Of course the program is designed to turn more customers into frequent visitors, but if you already visit Noodles regularly, or if you're already a Noodles Rewards member, this amounts to added value.

Panera Bread

In an effort to boost sales of its retail product line, Panera has introduced Panera Grocery Rewards, a new loyalty program that earns grocery shoppers benefits at its restaurants. Under the program, customers who spend $20 on Panera brand products at grocery stores earn a $5 e-gift card that can be used in-store at a Panera Bread café.


The Panera product line includes premade soups, heat-and-eat entrees like primavera bowls and asiago macaroni, bottled dressings, packaged bread and bagels, coffee, flatbread pizzas, and other assorted products popular at the restaurant. Considering a single Panera flatbread costs $12.99 at our local Mariano's, spending $20 on Panera grocery products wouldn't be too difficult—and if you're gravitating toward these products anyway, you might as well cash in on the e-gift card deal.

To redeem the offer, shoppers have to upload a picture of their receipt on the website and input their email address. Panera's grocery products are available at major grocery stores including Kroger, Publix, and Walmart.